PFM released their second album, Per un amico ("For a Friend"), in late 1972, and saw it rise to the top of the Italian hit parade, partly the result of heavy touring. Because of this success, they signed to ELP's newly formed Manticore label to seek success outside their native Italy. Pete Sinfield was brought on as lyricist and producer for the resulting Photos of Ghosts, their first English language album. Basically a remixing of their second album, it did feature two new recordings: The high steppin' "Celebration" is reprised from their first album, while the quiet instrumental "Old Rain" is altogether new. Both "River Of Life" and the title track highlight the attention to detail that PFM bring to their compositions. "Il Banchetto", the only track sung in Italian, features some delicious synthesizer lines from Flavio Premoli, while "Mr. 9 'till 5" is positively electric. Whether or not the English lyrics add or subtract to the original music is open for debate (I like it.) Not surprisingly (with Sinfield collaborating), the album focuses on the gentler, reflective moods than its Italian counterpart. PFM's skill in arrangement takes another step forward, although some foreign influences still persist (notably Gentle Giant). PFM held their debut concert in the UK upon the album's release, followed by their first tour outside of Italy in support of Sinfield (and Mel Collins). The album even entered the lower reaches of the US Top 200 album chart.
Kingdom Come entered Rockfield Studio at the end of 1972 to record what would be their third and final album, Journey. Joining Arthur Brown, Andy Dalby and Phil Shutt were two new additions: Victor Peraino on keyboards and the band's so-called fifth member, the Bentley Rhythm Ace. Operated by Brown, the Bentley was of course one of the first drum machines, and coupled with the synthesizer work of Peraino, the two brought an original texture to the record. This pioneering effect is evidenced immediately on the opening track "Time Captives". Given the context, this was no cheap trick either; it's as integrated into their sound as any other instrument. The arrangements here are more open and spacious, the pace even subdued, particularly on the following instrumental "Triangles". Dalby's underrated guitar work features prominently on "Gypsy", while "Superficial Roadblocks" benefits from Peraino's Mellotron. The requisite R&B-tinged anthem is Brown's "Spirit of Joy"; serving also as the single from the album, it's as good as Brown would ever deliver. The album ends with the bluesy (and ballsy) "Come Alive". Unfortunately, the lifestyle and pressures of leading the band would cause Brown to abandon the band for the spiritual retreat of the then popular Gurdjieff way, but not before turning up in Ken Russell's film version of Tommy. Under the guidance of Peraino, Kingdom Come would record one final (and extremely rare) album before calling it a day. Shutt ended up in Kiki Dee's band, while Dalby appeared in a much later version of Camel. In 1975, Brown would record the first of two (more or less) commercial albums for the Gull Label, and then disappear until the end of the timeline.
Following the departure of Darryl Way and Francis Monkman, Sonja Kristina and Mike Wedgewood regrouped Curved Air, bringing in two young prodigies: guitarist Kirby Gregory and keyboardist Eddie Jobson, along with drummer Jim Russell, all made their debut on the 1973 album Air Cut. "Purple Speed Queen" kicks off the album driven on by Jobson's heavy organ and Gregory's up-in-the-mix guitar runs. "Elfin Boy" contrasts this completely; it's a gentle folk number with Kristina's voice to the fore. However it's the appreciably heavy rock of the lengthy Jobson-penned "Metamorphosis" that finally fulfills Curved Air's promise; full of Jobson's keyboard acrobatics, it's veritable prog rock. For "Armin", Jobson switches to violin, again revealing a prodigious talent on the fiery instrumental. Kirby steps out with some cool Leslie-effected guitar on his "U.H.F". It's a relatively straight-forward guitar rock number, but with an odd (but effective) break thrown right in the middle. Wedgewood steps up to the microphone on his "Two-Three-Two", revealing his pop sensibilities that would later grace Caravan. But the overwrought arrangement of the closing "Easy" reveals the album's weakness: the "over the top" here is simply way over the top. This would be the only album for the lineup (an unreleased album would remain in the vaults); the original Curved Air, with Kristina, Way, Monkman, Florian Pilkington-Miksa and Philip Kohn reunited in late 1974 for a live album and tour, presumably arranged to pay off a tax bill the band had outstanding. Way and Kristina would then recruit new blood for their final two records, 1975's Midnight Wire and 1976's Airborne, both on RCA. Stewart Copeland, brother of manager Miles Copeland and husband of Kristina would join on drums, while Mick Jacques played guitar. However, without much success, Way split in 1976, and after one final tour, the band broke up for good. Stewart would join up with Gong alumnus Mike Howlett in the pre-Police Strontium 90.
Violinist Darryl Way left Curved Air earlier in the year to form Wolf, assembling a remarkable collection of talent: a young guitarist John Etheridge had his professional start here, while Ian Mosley had previously drummed for Walrus. Canadian Dek Messecar joined on bass and vocals, and King Crimson's Ian McDonald produced the ensuing debut album, Canis Lupis. Needless to say, expectations were high. Way carried on his brand of progressive music, predictably mixing classical elements with heavy rock. The first side contains vocal numbers, though unfortunately Messecar's voice proves nondescript. "The Void" clicks along, while "Isolation Waltz" gets down right heavy; there's a slightly psychedelic and spooky feel they're aiming at and ultimately achieve. The second side is instrumental (with fairly democratic composition credits) and proves more successful. "Cadenza" is a regular hoot, highlighting Way's acoustic violin and some nice clean guitar lines from Etheridge, while "Chanson San Paroles" features Way's considerable keyboard skills. The band recorded a second album, Saturation Point, shortly after, as it was also released by Deram in 1972. Wolf then added John Hodgkinson from If on vocals and cut what would be their final album, Night Music. In mid 1974, Way returned to Curved Air, ostensibly for a reunion tour to pay off an outstanding tax bill, however he ultimately stayed on, bringing Wolf to an abrupt end. There's a happy ending though: Etheridge joined Soft Machine and Messecar went on to Caravan. Mosley recorded an album with Dutch progressives Trace before winding up a founding member of neo-progressive heavyweight Marillion in the 1980s.
If 1971 had been a busy year (recording three albums), Gong spent the most of the next year touring with Magma and then dealing with lineup changes. Drummers came and went, as did almost everyone else with the exception of Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Didier Malherbe. Late in 1972, the band attended a Kevin Ayers gig in France, which introduced them to guitarist Steve Hillage. Tim Blake, an engineer from Allen's Banana Moon sessions, joined on synthesizer. Ex-Magma bassist Francis Moze also joined, while Laurie Allen returned long enough to play drums on the ensuing album. Thus reconstituted, Allen penned the first installment of the Radio Gnome trilogy: part mystic (think eastern), thoroughly humorous and most certainly psychedelic, it's perhaps the penultimate manifestation of the Gong trip. On the surface, the cabaret of "Radio Gnome" is of course plain silly, but the slow rising mantra rhythm of "Flying Teapot" is pure invocation. The opening lines of "The Pot Head Pixies" say it all; Allen's penchant for writing hilarious lyrics is as natural as his infectious melodies. Blake's "Octave Doctors" reveals his unique synthesizer talent as well as Malherbe's sublime alto sax, while "Zero the Hero" broods under the much overlooked rhythm section of Moze and Laurie Allen. Smyth's "Witch Song/I Am Your Pussy" concludes in her own inimitable way. All in all, Flying Teapot remains one of the most consistent albums of the trilogy and a fan favorite, despite a rather awkward production (and substandard recording). Soon after the album was recorded, Allen and Smyth would (temporarily) take their leave to Majorca for parenthood, while further personnel changes would engage the band of the rest of the year. Gong were one of the first bands offered a contract with Richard Branson's new Virgin Records, though legal ties with BYG Records would dog them for years to come. The album was the second release on Virgin Records, V2002.
By the end of 1971, Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister (later of Motörhead fame), drummer Simon King and poet Robert Calvert had been thoroughly integrated into the Hawkwind fold. The summer of 1972 saw a surprise hit-single for the band: "Silver Machine" b/w "Seven by Seven" rode the UK charts all the way to No. 3, providing the band with their first bona fide success. The song, sung by Lemmy, was culled from the Greasy Trucker's benefit concert at London's Roundhouse. The band then released the excellent album Doremi Fasol Latido in November and a month later staged the concerts from which Space Ritual was comprised. Hawkwind's visual side was always a large part of their concert event, from Liquid Len's kaleidoscopic light show to Amazonian dancer Stacia, the so-called "Barbarella of Notting Hill Gate". Although this was reduced to a foldout gatefold cover, the double-album still presents the full-on live Hawkwind trip over four glorious sides of vinyl. Some of the material was from previous albums, some new, but none of that really matters. Throughout, the chug-a-chug rhythm of Lemmy and King is relentless as Hawkwind's space rock drives forward; the atmospheric synthesizers of Dik Mik and Del Dettmar and the spoken word of Bob Calvert, quite reminiscent of Arthur Brown here, provide interlude. Certainly closer to heavy metal than anything prog rock, Hawkwind's sound is definitely guilty of being monochromatic: but never mind, the songs never really begin or end - the whole ship takes off and at the end of the journey it stops, its grittiness always rendering it both genuine and enduring. The album reached No. 9 in the UK. Later in the year, Hawkwind toured the US for the first time.
First things first: the correct title of this album is Leg End (get the sock covers now?) and the band did not derive their name from American composer Henry Cowell. Henry Cow's genesis is in 1968 when guitarist Fred Frith, keyboardist Tim Hodgkinson and bassist John Greaves were students at Cambridge University. By 1972, drummer Chris Cutler had joined. That year they played concerts under the name Cabaret Voltaire and The Explorer's Club, (both band names appropriated later by others). Their distinctive sound is some of the most avant-garde in the timeline, and certainly the highest brow of the era, especially for a bunch of leftists! "Nirvana for Mice" is trademarked with Frith's sideways electric guitar and Geoff Leigh's woodwinds, in particular the oboe. The improvisational "Teenbeat Introduction" gives way to the complicated arrangement of 'Teenbeat"; clever titles and all, the band was not without humor. Of course, this was not easy listening by any stretch, but a track like "Amygdala" isn't that far off from the free and jazzy styling of their Virgin label mates Hatfield And The North. And underneath it all is an amazing rhythm section, one that helps "Teenbeat Reprise" approach rock music. Signed to Virgin Records, the band supported both Mike Oldfield and Faust on UK tours. A year later they would release the equally definitive unrest album and collaborate with the similarly minded (but disappointing) Slapp Happy. In 1975 they released a second collaboration with Slapp Happy, In Praise Of Learning, though infinitely more interesting was yet another release, the live double-album Concerts. The latter included Robert Wyatt on vocals. Later in the decade, the band would morph into the Art Bears and champion the Rock In Opposition movement, based partly on their political leanings, and partly out of necessity.
Imagine a young musician trying to interest you in a 20-minute cassette of instrumental music, on which he played every instrument. Such was Virgin Records boss Richard Branson presented with when he first encountered Mike Oldfield. Not that the young Oldfield didn't have credentials: he'd been in a folk band with his elder sister Sally since he was fourteen, and spent the past few years in Kevin Ayers' band, The Whole World. His original demo was eventually recorded at Virgin's in-house studio The Manor, with Tom Newman producing and Oldfield playing nearly every instrument heard on the album. The rest, as they say, is history. The first release on Virgin Records (catalog V2001), Tubular Bells was an overnight sensation. It rose to No. 1 in the UK and No. 3 in the US. That the album garnered such immediate success was telltale of the time: Oldfield was presented as a multi-instrumentalist-savant, and the long of it only added to its appeal. He takes accessible, near Celtic themes, and weaves them together in a gentle and naïve fashion that approaches minimalism, but remains populist. The first side opens with the hook of a lifetime; the piece ebbs sideways more than forward, gradually building momentum until the resplendent finale, where Bonzo Dog Band's Viv Stanshall introduces each instrument. The second side works similarly: only the Moribund vocals and the bootleg chorus interrupt the circular motion of the acoustic instruments. It's a gentle extension of the first side, except with a Bugs Bunny ending this time around (in fact the traditional "The Sailor's Hornpipe"). Early the following year, an excerpt used as the theme for the movie The Exorcist would break the Top 10 in the US singles charts. And it didn't end there: An orchestrated version, courtesy of composer David Bedford followed in 1975 and again charted in the UK, but a live version from 1973 (with a host of Virgin labelmates) remains unreleased. Oldfield released Tubular Bells II in 1992, Tubular Bells III in 1998 and re-recorded the original in 2003, as Tubular Bells 2003.
Novalis took not only their namesake from German poet Friedrich von Hardenberg, but his concept of lyricism and romanticism as well. The band was unique among German progressives, generally bypassing the British idiom of prog rock, while offering something much more unique. The band was formed in the early ‘70s in Hamburg, combining the talents of bassist Heino Schünzel, vocalist Jürgen Wenzel, keyboardist Lutz Rahn and drummer Hartwig Biereichel. Their debut album, Banished Bridge was released on the Brain label in 1973. Drenched in classical flourishes, the album-side long title track presents their music: delicate strokes of acoustic and folk music brush the wide musical landscape; evolving slowly while avoiding lethargy, when the band finally ignites it’s with broad symphonic splashes of melody. Sonically, Rahn’s keyboards paint the canvas. “High Evolution” starts the second side, with organ bubbling underneath the brisk rhythm section, while “Laughing”, despite its folksy start, gains momentum after the classically inspired interlude with Rahn’s organ again dominating the picture. With its instrumental passage and long symphonic refrain, the closing track “Inside” again relies on classical structures à la Procol Harum to get its point across. Unfortunately Wenzel’s not a terribly strong vocalist and there’s a particular ‘60s vibe to the monochromatic record. After a subsequently grueling tour Wenzel left and later, when recording sessions with producer Jochen Peterson were cancelled, the band collapsed. Nothing would be heard of Novalis for another two years.
Munich was an especially ripe breeding ground in the late ‘60s for rock music, perhaps for its reputation as a jazz center in Europe, and groups as diverse as Amon Düül I &amp II, Popol Vuh, Passport and Embryo all called it home. Percussionist Christian Burchard founded the latter in late 1969, after a brief stint in Amon Düül II. After releasing their debut album Opal on Ohr, the group more or less solidified with Burchard on drums and vocals, bassist Roman Bunka, flautist Hansi Fischer and Edgar Hofmann on sax and violin. Signed to United Artists, they release a pair of albums before being dropped for not being commercial enough; recordings made in the interim were subsequently released by the more liberal-minded Brain. These featured American pianist Mal Waldron as a guest; he originally worked with Burchard in the late ‘60s. In late 1972, Embryo hooked up with another iconic jazz musician, American saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Signed to BASF, Embryo was now a quartet featuring Burchard, Bunka, Mariano and keyboardist Dieter Miekautsch, from Missus Beastly, another Munich jazz-rock outfit. Their first release, We Keep On, is one of the most inspired albums of fusion. The album kicks off with the electrifying groove of “No Place To Go”. Under the rhythm of Miekautsch’s crisp electric piano and Burchard’s persistent drumming, both Mariano and Bunka let loose on their respective instruments. It’s definitely got a krautrock vibe, and there’s an intensity here that’s heavier than any contemporary fusion. “Flute and Saz” is exactly that, featuring the lute-like instrument from Turkey. “Ehna, Ehna, Abu Lele” again goes for intense fusion, but this time with far more ethnic flavoring in the beat, while “Hackbrett-Dance” features Mariano on nagasuram, an oboe-like instrument from India. The final two tracks, “Abdul Malek” and “Don’t Come Tomorrow” are reminiscent of Can, certainly a contemporaneous coincidence. The collaboration with Mariano brought considerable attention to the band; the album was even billed as “featuring Charlie Mariano” and saw a US release in 1974. Embryo would release another album for BASF before Burchard co-founded April/Schneeball Records in 1976. His interest in ethnic music would then lead him to extended sabbaticals throughout the world, and with constantly fluid lineups, as Embryo’s music moved more and more towards a different world fusion.
Jethro Tull headed off to Michel Magne's famous Chateau D'Herouville studio in France to record the follow-up to the prior year's Thick As A Brick. Unfortunately, the sessions were abandoned and the band returned to England without a record. (The sessions were eventually released on CD in 1993). Reconstituted in London, Tull started anew and recorded another album-length epic, this time centering on the altogether heavier topic of life and death! Although a concise edit (#8) was found for a single, A Passion Play is best taken as a whole. The band is again in prime form and exceptionally tight; running throughout the more elaborate arrangement is that dense meter that is unmistakably Tull. Ian Anderson adds saxophone this time around, and John Evan reaches his hands across a few more keyboards, both giving the album a more varied sound. The Lewis Carroll- esque "The Story of the Hare who lost his Spectacles" (co-written with Evan and Jeffrey Hammond) is good humored, while the musical passage that immediately frames it quite refreshing. Obviously any attempt to write a passion play in a rock context left Anderson and company wide open for criticism, especially on the heels of the preceding extravaganza. Some of the self-deprecating Python-esque humor too was absent (the album's promotional movie notwithstanding), not to mention the affable hook of the predecessor's glorious refrain. Guess what: the music press was nothing but hostile towards it. Yet despite universal panning, the album shot again to the US No. 1 position, and No. 13 in the UK, again proving the band delivered more of what their fans wanted. The band toured in support of the album, performing "A Passion Play" in its entirety. However, Anderson didn't weather the hostility well and spent the next year off, giving Jethro Tull a re-think.
Le Orme ("the footprint") had typical Italian roots: during the late '60s, they were a beat-psych band that released a few singles and a rather good album, Ad Gloriam. In 1970, the band followed keyboardist Toni Pagliuca's muse, and as one of the first Italian progressive bands, took off in a direction similar to The Nice or Deep Purple. Le Orme subsequently recorded two organ- driven albums: Collage in 1971 and Uomo di Pezza ("Man of Rags") in 1972. Not to be missed is the heavy organ rock on the former's "Cemento Armato", while the latter contained the single "Gioco Di Bimba" which topped the Italian hit parade in 1972. Their third album, Felona And Sorona, was another concept album, something concerning a story about two planets and their eventual destruction. The English language version of the album, recorded at Charisma-boss Tony Stratton-Smith's request, sports a translation by none other than VDGG's Peter Hammill, but still features the same production of Gian Piero Reverberi's original mix. The album is a mixture of gentle progressive music, with a very original and Italian feel; certainly one of the finest examples of Italian progressive rock. Pagliuca's keyboards dominate, avoiding the English derivation of early works; his use of layered synthesizer lines is quite unique. Aldo Tagliapietra's acoustic guitar gives (you guessed it) a Mediterranean feel to tracks like "Felona" and "The Balance". His vocals are slightly accented, which should only add to the album's charm. Drummer Michi Dei Rossi is particularly inventive while always remaining understated. Le Orme toured the UK in support of the album; however this was their only English language record (and has never been released on compact disc). The band would release both a poorly recorded live album and the studio album Contrappunti in 1974. Then, Le Orme would add a second guitarist, Tolo Marton, and head to Los Angeles to record the more commercial Smogmagica, it's highlight "Laserium Floyd". A US Compilation, Beyond Leng, would also appear the same year. Subsequent recordings would tread different musical territory with each release, but keep the band employed until the end of the decade.
Faust were uniquely German, and in all probability, the antithesis of the aesthetics of British prog rock. In fact, Faust raison d'être had more in common with post-modern art than anything remotely romantic; however their relative success (courtesy Virgin records) was tied tightly to the progressive era. Their first two albums for Polydor, both produced by Uwe Nettlebeck, were instant krautrock classics, though most certainly not good listening. Richard Branson signed the band to his Virgin label and released the compilation The Faust Tapes album for a ridiculously low price (that of a single, 49p). Coupled with a tour of the UK with Henry Cow (with Peter Blegvad from Slapp Happy in tow), the album sold a reputed 100,000 copies. Their next album, IV, was recorded under the auspices of Virgin's Manor Studio and is a far enough departure from the avant-garde of their earlier efforts to warrant inclusion in the timeline. The album's opener, the relentless "Krautrock", is a brazen tribute to their Teutonic sonic heritage: it's simply astonishing. "The Sad Skin Head" offers reggae, but not really, just as the beauty of "Jennifer" hides something more sinister underneath. "Giggy Smile" breaks open with a classic riff, yet quickly dissolves into frenzy, ending up with the same riff albeit sideways. Throughout, the album explores composition and musicianship with a more than healthy dose of revisionism and psychedelia. Like Neu!, Faust's legacy would attain mythical proportion in rock history, all on the basis of their limited catalog. This was their final release, as they would break up in 1975.
Violist Geoffrey Richardson jumped aboard Caravan in late 1972, while bassist John G. Perry joined after the Australian tour. They were two significant additions to the band, as both musicians would impart a significant influence on Pye Hastings and Richard Coughlan. The band hired Dave Sinclair for a tour in the spring, but by the time they entered the studio to record their fifth record, For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, he had returned as fulltime keyboardist. Driven by a hard driving guitar riff and punctuated by Sinclair's classic organ solo, the album's opener, "Memory Lain, Hugh", is a great return to form. Jimmy Hastings' flute and the stately horn arrangements help segue into the second section "Headloss", and the band never skips a beat. Richardson's viola is well suited for the music, and his "Hoedown" reflects the new character, however "C'Thlu" is a big departure, sounding more like Cream than Caravan! The second side contains several more compositions from Hastings that also present a new harder edge. The highlight is the stretch beginning with "L'Auberge du Sanglier" ("Wild Boar Inn") and running through "A Hunting We Will Go". Propelled by Perry's strong bass lines, the section features a powerful orchestration from Martin Ford, augmented by a rare synthesizer solo from Sinclair. The orchestra would join Caravan on stage at the Royal Drury Lane just after the album's release, drawing the excellent Caravan and the New Symphonia album from the show. It would be the only release for the band in 1974 and once again, neither album would chart, despite both being two of the strongest in the Caravan catalog.
Issued in July as a budget-priced album, the performances on Genesis Live, were nothing short of priceless; it rose to No. 9 in the UK album charts. Live albums had started to appear during the early '70s, ostensibly to fill the album-per-year requirement most labels demanded. Of course, other than earning an easy buck or two, they also gave bands a breather to jump-start the creative process or fill a vacant role, and often served as a bookmark in a band's development. For Genesis, it closed the chapter that began with Trespass. If our boys from Charterhouse made one big artistic leap in their recording career, it was with Selling England By The Pound; all that the band would accomplish in the future now seems plausible from here. It's evident immediately on the lead track "Dancing With The Moonlit Knight": while the band paces through several changes in tone and tempo, the production holds throughout, and the slow fade reveals a new precision from the band. Throughout the album, the compositions offer a certain maturity in their music: both "Firth Of Fifth" (with Tony Banks' proud piano introduction) and "Cinema Show" would feature prominently in their later repertoire. Steve Hackett's "After The Ordeal" is unique territory for the band, however his elegant guitar solo on "Firth Of Fifth" remains his classic contribution to the album. Genesis even had a near hit single in "I Know What I Like" (it reached No. 21 in the UK). The album's musical highlight is the epically constructed "The Battle Of Epping Forest". Superbly executed, the band would go on record proclaiming that they were happier with the track without Gabriel's gang account sung all over on top of it! Writing on the wall? The album was their first unqualified success, rising to No. 3 in the UK and a respectable No. 70 in the US. Like the changes in Hackett's facial hair at the time, the band was coming out of their cocoon, readying for even greater triumphs.
Having road-tested some of the material the previous summer, Remember The Future splits its single title down the album's two halves; but rather than album-side compositions, what Nektar offers are two song cycles that run continuous. The story revolves around a bluebird and a blind boy, but I won't go there, I'll let Nektar do that for you. The sprightly opening section "Images of The Past" bounces underneath Roye Albrighton's rhythm guitar. Immediately the vocal harmonies hit you: either you get them or you don't (I don't). Propelled by Mo Moore and Ron Howden's brisk rhythm, the second section "Wheel Of Time" slows the tempo and reveals a little more detail in the arrangement. "Remember the Future" then grumbles and pulses under Taff Freeman's grinding organ. Nektar even get downright heavy on the closing "Confusion", with Albrighton delivering a classic psychedelic lead guitar. The second side again presents another lengthy song cycle. Both "Questions and Answers" and "Tomorrow Never Comes" follow the pattern of the first side, well-polished and highly melodic. But after that, the band gets bluesy and funky for the final few tracks. The album was hugely successful in Germany, and even managed to enter the US Top 20 the following summer on the basis of radio airplay. The success eventually prompted the US label Passport Records to reissue some of their back catalog. Nektar's next release was Sunday Night at London Roundhouse, though that wasn't completely accurate. One side of the album was indeed recorded live at London's Roundhouse, but the other contained excerpts from a jam the band had in the studio after completing this record. While accurately capturing the spontaneity of the band's performance, both reveal the heavier rocking side of Nektar.
Robert Fripp and Brian Eno paired up for this recording over a year prior to its release. At the time Eno had just departed Roxy Music and was on his way to a subsequent solo career, while Fripp had just sacked all of King Crimson. Recorded in Eno's front room, the album's centerpiece is "The Heavenly Music Corporation"; it's Fripp's guitar feed looped-back through two tape recorders. The result? You guessed it - heavenly music! So if you've a liking for those heavy sustained Fripp guitar solos or if you're interested in the roots of Eno's ambient adventures, look no further. The second side, recorded a year later at Command Studios, seems more manipulated and dense, but to equal effect. The album is one of the first releases of "process" music in a rock context, though certainly not the first nor last: Eno would create an entire catalog parallel to and eventually eclipsing his pop releases. First up for Eno was his Discreet Music in 1975, followed by Music For Airports in 1977. Fripp would also further investigate this territory towards the end of the decade, with his self-described "Frippertronics" technique. The album was one of the first experimental releases from two (more or less) rock stars, and saw release on Island's Antilles subsidiary (the HELP series in the UK). The pair would release a second album Evening Star two years later, but the statement had already been made.
Germany’s Guru Guru, formed in 1968 by drummer and vocalist Mani Neumeier and bassist Uli Trepte, gave new meaning to the “power trio”. Moving to Berlin, they added Ax Genrich from Agitation Free on guitar, and proceeded to take the guitar-bass-drum format of Cream or Jimi Hendrix and turn it on its head. Loud, intrepid and thoroughly psychedelic, Guru Guru created krautrock of the highest order. Both their debut album UFO and the following Hinten, released in 1970 and 1971 respectively, displayed not only the guitar acrobatics of Genrich, but the similarly freaked-out playing from the rhythm section of Neumeier and Trepte. After a couple of albums on Brain Records, Hans Hartmann replaced Trepte and the band signed to Atlantic Records. There was little precedent for Guru Guru’s music, even by 1973’s Don’t Call Us, We Call You. “Africa Steals The Show” leads off, featuring a light melody and similarly plaintive guitar lines from Trepte; its second half approaches conventionality, with a piano now guiding the song. “Round Dance” is next; starting out in mildly kosmische territory, Neumeier and company break out into a Shoshone dance before returning to the rock-n-roll form of the first track. “200 Cliches” also traces rock-n-roll, and “Das Zwickmaschinchen” (“little pincher”) again features another of their quirky melodies. The final track, “Guru Guru Ltd”, is an acoustic affair. Genrich’s guitar work is light years from that of the early records; this would be his last with the band.
Kraftwerk starts and ends with Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. The pair first recorded with Organisation, a band that released one album in 1970, before establishing themselves as Kraftwerk. Both Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother of Neu! interned with the band early on, well documented in the video "Truckstop Gondolaro" from German Beat Club television. Their second album saw the pair reunited, now substituting a rhythm machine in lieu of a drummer. The album again was firmly in the krautrock tradition, equally touching the avant-garde with psychedelia. With more emphasis on melody, their third album, Ralf & Florian, represents a stylistic shift. The opening track "Elecktrisches Roulette" gets about as manic as Kraftwerk would ever be, but exactly why the melody sounds like the theme from Gilligan's Island is anyone's guess! Schneider's echoed and multi-tracked flute opens the following "Tongebirge", with synthesizers lumbering underneath. "Kristallo" puts a clavinet in one channel, while the other contrasts with a fuzzy pulsating synthesizer. It ambles along, drifting to silence before fading back into the mix at double-time. Weird. The effervescent "Tanzmusik" begins the second side, with a coy piano riff riding over the "artificial" beat of the rhythm machine. The closing track, "Ananas Symphonie" ("pineapple symphony"), however, is the sleeper. Full of incredible detail, it evokes a mellifluous aura over its fourteen minutes, like a wave swept beach. The album remains much-underrated in the Kraftwerk catalog, and perhaps a lost link between prog rock and krautrock. The picture on the back album cover speaks, as they say, a thousand words. It would see release in the US two years later, after the success of their next album.
It would be hard to have passed through the '60s without hearing one of Manfred Mann's numerous singles that littered the Top 10 in England, including his most famous "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy", which topped both sides of the Atlantic. But as the South African born keyboardist entered the '70s, he left the pop world behind, releasing two albums under the moniker Chapter Three. volume one was an excellent record, its heavy-ish tunes outfitted with huge brass arrangements, but still somehow rooted in the '60s. In 1971 he assembled the Earth Band with drummer Chris Slade, bassist Colin Pattenden, and guitarist and vocalist Mike Rogers. Dubbed Manfred Mann's Earth Band, they churned out four albums in the space of just under two years. Both Glorified Magnified and Messin' (US title Get Your Rocks Off) were solid efforts, illustrating that Mann had indeed assembled one cohesive band. In August, the band scored a Top 10 hit in the UK (and Europe) with "Joybringer", a song based on Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" from the composers' "Planets Suite". This concept was continued on the ensuing Solar Fire album. Opening the album is an unlikely cover of Bob Dylan's "Father of Day, Father of Night"; it's an awesome display of prog rock, the stately arrangement evoking the aura of early King Crimson, yet with Mann's organ growling underneath. From here on out, the songs are all group compositions: "In The Beginning" rocks heavy over its driving riff, while "Pluto the Dog" gets a little funky. The hypnotic groove of the title track provides an excellent base for Rogers' lead guitar. The slower tempo of the title track rides another heavy groove, while "Saturn, Lord of the Ring/Mercury, the Winged Messenger" traverses fusion-inspired realms. All in all, it's a strikingly original album that avoids most of the sins of prog rock, and one that even managed to break into the US Top 100. The Earth Band's next effort, The Good Earth, featured more terrestrial compositions, the instrumental "Sky High" notwithstanding. The album had the ultimate gimmick: a purchase entitled the buyer to one square foot of land somewhere in Wales!